Lack of seat belt use a serious problem
I just settled a major wrongful death lawsuit against a construction company where the insurance company’s lawyer in Dallas tried to prove that the decedent was not wearing his seat belt. I won the dispute. But why was this even at issue?
Because the Texas Supreme Court ruled last year that seat belt non use is now admissible as evidence at trial. So defendants can now blame the injured driver/his family for not wearing a seat belt and reduce, even zero out their damages award — when the other driver is 100% at fault.
Why do I occasionally see new clients who have been injured in car wrecks but who refused to buckle up? God only knows.
The seat belt holds your body in place and prevents you from hitting the steering wheel, flying through the windshield or being crushed in a rollover crash. This important device is one of the greatest safety innovations of the 20th century.
Seat belts can help divert tragedy, like the one Friday in Fort Worth on West Loop 820. A woman was ejected from her vehicle when it collided with another car. Fort Worth police pronounced her dead at the scene. Had she just taken those two seconds to strap on her seat belt, she might be alive today.
A matter of life and death
There aren’t many things you can do in two seconds that can so drastically change your life. Putting on your seat belt is the smartest two-second investment you can make. All the fancy bells and whistles on your car won’t help if you aren’t wearing your seat belt. Airbags and innovative body design certainly help, but wearing a seat belt is the most effective means of surviving a car crash.
These statistics reveal that
- About 33,000 people die in car wrecks every year.
- Seat belt use save about 300,000 lives in the U.S. since 1970.
- For front-seat car occupants, seat belts cut risk of death by 45 percent and risk of serious injuries by 50 percent.
- For SUV and pickup truck occupants, seat belts cut risk of death by 60 percent and serious injuries by 65 percent.
- An average of six teens died in car wrecks every day, 56 percent of whom were not strapped in.
- Teens are the least likely to use a seat belt of any age group.
These striking numbers should be enough to convince even the most reluctant seat belt user that the benefits are worth the two-second effort. But 13 percent of teens and adults don’t wear their seat belts.
$200 — Another reason to wear your seat belt
If saving your life or recovering your financial damages after an automobile collision is not incentive enough, how about saving $200?
The Texas seat belt statute requires you to wear a seat belt if you are in the front or back seat. Failing to do so is punishable by up to $200 in fines and fees.
Because Texas is a primary seat belt state, police can pull you over solely for failing to wear your seat belt. You may be the most cautious, law-abiding driver, but still receive an expensive ticket if you don’t wear your seat belt.
Anyone who thinks this is unfair should consider that primary seat belt states have significantly higher rates of seat belt use than states with secondary or no seat belt law.
Please buckle up!